2nd generation vegetarian with limited time and access to cultural knowledge of recipes because of assimilation and lack of time. How do I cook?

I'm a second generation daughter of immigrant parents. I'm a vegetarian and working poor, so eating healthy is often cost-prohibitive. I eat a lot of starches and feel grumpy. In addition, my mom does most of the grocery shopping without consulting me. How do I find/develop staples of delicious, simple recipes with vegetables I can actually prepare and not get bored of?

Cassandra Leveille


nutcakes December 15, 2013
I agree to start off by learning how to cook. You can get recipes from blogs, but getting a good book is helpful. I think it is important to make recipes from reliable sources, however so you have success. Do you eat eggs and/or cheese?

Here is a simple recipe I like from a good blog. It is delicious. Mirin is a little expensive but it lasts indefinitely.
Maedl December 15, 2013
Make use of your public library. It's free! Find the cooking section and you may discover a treasure-trove of vegetarian cookbooks. Deborah Madison's are all very good--lots of taste and flavor there. While you're at it, look for Indian cookbooks--they are another rich source of vegetarian recipes. My favorite foods usually come from the Mediterranean, so look for Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern books.

PBS broadcasts good food-oriented shows, so start watching them for picking up practical skills. America's Test Kitchen, done by the same people who publish the magazine Cook's Illustrated, can teach you lots of practical skills. Many other shows delve into foods of particular cultures and can spark ideas for your own use.

Another thing, besides working more closely with your parents, is to talk to other people in your community who cook. Ask them about their food traditions and tel them you want to develop your cooking skills. Most likely, you will be invited to help cook dinner, which is a great way to learn.

Cooking isn't rocket science .If you don't understand a term in a cookbook, look it up. Ask questions, and just do it.
ATG117 December 15, 2013
I'd first try understanding how to cook. Growing up, I did this by watching a whole lot of food network. The quality of the shows has changed dramatically, but u still think it's important to see how cooking is done. The Chew is a great option these days. You might also go to your local Barnes and Noble or library and start reading recipes. Mark Buttmans book, mentioned above, is a good one for starters. Nigel Slater and Deborah Madison also have great vegetarian focused books. This site is a great resource, too. You might also check out 101cookbooks, sproutedkitchen, an smittenkitchen. As far as cheap staples to keep on hand: eggs, lentils, quinoa, rolled oats, chickpeas or other beans, brown rice, Peanut butter, honey, Greek yogurt (perhaps you can stop up when it's on sale, canned tomatoes, frozen peas, frozen spinach, and sweet potatoes. Maybe tofu too. Kosher salt. This woukd be my short list. You can do so much with these ingredients, especially when combined with fresh produce. Most of the items I mentioned are high in protein, too. If you search for any one ingredient in the search box up top, you'll hopefully find recipes you can make. I'll try to follow up with some links.
xhille December 14, 2013
The best advice I can offer for a vegetarian living with their parents is this: talk to them. Ask if you can add a few items on the grocery list, help out in the kitchen, and make suggestions on things to make the whole family will like. If you don't say anything, don't help out and otherwise do not contribute towards meals, your parents won't be all that sympathetic about your diet. It's a lot easier for everyone if you work together. (I learned this the hard way.... don't make the mistakes I have!) Plus, helping out is a great way to bond with your parents and learn about their culture. In time, you may figure out how to make their favorite dishes without the meat.

In a pinch, it's good to have some high-protein snacks around. Nuts are good, but you don't want to fill up on energy bars all the time -- they're full of fat, sugar and presevatives most of the time.

Soy is a handy substitute, but you don't want to overdo it on any one ingredient. Try substituting vegetable stock/broth for beef or chicken. And maybe keeping some veggie patties in the freezer (bought or homemade) to swap in for a main dish?

It will be in your best interest in the long run to look for cooking resources and learn how to cook. There's a vegtarian filter in the search or browse feature on many sites, including this one.... use it!

If you get one book, just one, try Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It has thousands of recipes if you include the variations.

There's a ton of resources for vegetarians.... I just found http://www.college-cooking.com/tag/vegetarian/ and it looks like a good blog for a new cook, with lots of pictures and detailed instructions. If you're going to college, you can often find PETA pamphlets with recipes on campus somewhere.

Post Punk Kitchen's blog (http://www.theppk.com/blog/) has a ton of vegan recipes.

So yeah. Communicate/work with your parents, put a little time in, and use every resource you can find. It's going to take some time, effort and communication, but the results are more than worth it. Good luck!
Beatrice,Romeo September 25, 2013
Why not used soy products through everything you eat? You can add soy chunks to a nice stir fry / curry / soups / stews. The options are endless and very tasty.

Voted the Best Reply!

Jen M. September 25, 2013
I think this is a really useful template to help simplify inexpensive vegetarian cooking: food52.com/blog/8182-a-grain-a-green-a-bean

Dried beans and grains are cheap and easy to cook and store in bulk--as are potatoes and eggs. I also find keeping onions, garlic, butter, and lemons on hand at all times is an easy way to make just about any food taste good, cheaply. Play around with different spice combinations to figure out which ones you like best, and try making big batches of food to eat throughout the week when you have a convenient window of time.

Also, the freezer is definitely your friend, especially when you're making big batches of beans or grains. There's a really great piece about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/dining/06mini.html Also, in my opinion, almost every dinner can be improved with a fried egg. Hope this helps!
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